Matt's Exposure Record Book

by Matthew Cole
Home The History of Photography Matt's Equipment

I really like John Shaw's photo books and have admired with awe some aspects of his photography, particularly, the fact that he has all the eposures noted! How's he do that?! Does he write them all down or just make them up? It would be easy enough, I suppose, to do the latter: "Let's see, it was sunny out, so we'll tell 'em that was 1/125th at f/, wait, I'll yank their chains and tell 'em it was 1/8000th at f/2.0, see if anyone notices!"

Me, I'm terrible at keeping these kind of records. As you can tell from this site, if you've looked it over, a lot of my photographic life has been spent happily exprimenting with different aspects of cameras and gear. You'd think from this I'd develop a habit of carefully noting down important aspects of various endeavours, but no, I usually figure if I try something again, I'll have the same knowledge base and probably manage to stumble through again. I did carry a small notebook around and occasionally made use of it, as when I did the shots for the Perspective Control lens page, where I knew that if I didn't write down the extent of the shift, etc., I'd never remember it later. But most of the time I take my pictures with enough technical confidence that they're going to work that I don't bother recording exposure information to dissect later what went wrong.

I decided, though, that maybe what I needed was a better and more convenient format for noting down relevant photographic details. I gave it some thought, mocked some pages up, and came up with my Exposure Record Book, posted as a PDF file so you can see what I did and print one out and make your own if you like.

Here's my reasoning behind the layout:

And that's my Exposure Record Book. Take a look at the page, print one out, and give it some thought. Feel free to make your own. I have a couple of reams of this superb Crane 100% cotton paper, but if I didn't, I'd look in the resume paper section at your local stationery or office supply store for something similar. If you have suggestions or comments regarding the Exposure Record, drop me an email and I might incorporate them.

Note: A couple of years after posting this, I was searching for archival slide mount labels and ran into the Photo Safaris site. John Shaw is quoted on there. Here's what he said:

You might have noticed that nowhere in my database is there any record of camera and lens, film, or exposure. I dont know anyone who keeps track of this information. All that info you see published its all made up. Its reasonably correct, since any pro can look at an image and tell how he or she took it. But still, its not recorded anywhere.

I guess you can just make up that stuff! Now I don't feel quite so bad about not recording all my exposures!

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